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Parashat Vayeshev - 5773

My friends,

In the portion of Vayeshev we read the well-known story of Joseph and his brothers.

The favored treatment Jacob conferred on Joseph angered the brothers. They became even angrier when Joseph started to believe that he, the youngest, would one day rule over his brothers, rather than the first born, Reuven, as told by the dreams that he had and shared with his brothers. Centuries later, we will see that the king of Israel, David, is a descendant of Judah, the fourth son of Leah, not a descendant of Reuven the first-born, and not a descendant of Joseph, the favorite son and the first born of Rachel, who was Jacob's beloved. How come? In the case of Reuven, he became disqualified when following Rachel's death he had relations with Bilhah, Jacob's concubine.

The Midrash explains why Judah was chosen over Joseph - because Joseph, we are told in the beginning of Vayeshev, brought evil reports about his brothers to his father Jacob. He was involved in Lashon Harah - slander and gossip. Judah, however, showed leadership when he stopped his brothers from killing Joseph and suggested that they sell him to a passing caravan. He also showed leadership years later when he stood up to the viceroy of Egypt (before Joseph revealed himself) and saved his brother Benjamin.

Judah's leadership skills and the fact that he never spoke badly about his brothers qualified his tribe centuries later so that a great-great-granchild of Judah - David - will become the King of Israel. From this Parasha we learn that speaking badly about others - even if you are a Joseph who saved a whole country and your own family from famine - will disqualify you from being a future leader.

Hag Hanukkah Sameach!

Avram